Tour de France moto blog 2013

Blog by Moto 514, Luke Evans, the driver of CW photographer Graham Watson’s motorbike at the 2013 Tour de France

Stage 10

Tuesday, July 9

>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

There are 16 motorbikes on the Tour working with stills photographers. That’s a few more than other big races but those green stickers give unprecedented access and are hard to come by.

Global picture agencies like Getty and AFP make up most of the numbers. L’Equipe has three bikes. The slots fill up quickly.

We are one of a few freelance outfits. Graham Watson and Luca Bettini are sharing my bike, a Suzuki 650 V Strom. It’s not as big as the other bikes but it’s lighter and more nimble in a tight spot. We spend a lot of time behind the pack and the Suzuki is great when there are riders and cars swarming about.

Usually I am having problems with the bike. Previous bikes on grand tours have sprung leaks, cracked exhausts and shagged clutches. Nearly halfway through the race and all I have done so far is oil the chain and top up the oil. I am worried about the clutch in this hot weather but it was okay in the Pyrenees and won’t be tested until the Ventoux stage this weekend.

The bike is everything. If there’s a problem the guys can’t work and that is bad for business. It costs a lot of money to follow the Tour with a van, hotels, fuel, food and so on. I worry about the bike all the time.

In Nice I had to park it on the street. I took most of the wet weather gear out of the panniers but in the morning the zips were open and some water, energy bars, a spare set of foot pegs and a roll of gaffer tape had been nicked. I miss the gaffer tape most, it was great for sticking the profile map to the screen.

Oh yes and something has broken. On the Wednesday before the Tour when I was riding down to Toulon I broke a tooth on a homemade bacon sandwich. It broke in half under the filling. On that day, two days before the start in Corsica, I feared I may not even make the start. Incredibly, I have done nothing and it’s not giving me any trouble. I am booked in to the dentist the day after the Tour finishes.

This is my first Tour and its living up to expectations in terms of the scale and ambience. Out on the road, away from the fevered coverage in the virtual world, the race feels like it has never changed as it rolls past the waving crowds.

The fields are dry and dusty and there are already bales of hay stacking up. I can almost hear the famous accordionist Yvette Horner playing as we trundle along no differently to Tours in the Fifties.

Luke Evans, Moto 514